Jonathan Stromseth, Lee Kuan Yew Chair in Southeast Asian Studies; Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, Center for East Asia Policy Studies, John L. Thornton China Center

Jonathan Stromseth

Jonathan Stromseth is a nonresident senior fellow at Brookings where he holds a joint appointment in the Center for Asia Policy Studies and John L. Thornton China Center. From February 2017 to June 2023, he held the Lee Kuan Yew Chair in Southeast Asian Studies. He is also a professor of the practice in the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University.

Stromseth has broad experience as a policymaker, scholar, and development practitioner. From 2014 to 2017, he served on the secretary of state’s policy planning staff, advising the State Department’s leadership on China, Southeast Asia, and East Asian and Pacific affairs. Previously, he was The Asia Foundation’s country representative to China (2006–2014) and to Vietnam (2000–2005), and is a three-time recipient of the Foundation’s President’s Award for extraordinary program leadership. He has also conducted research as a Fulbright Scholar in Singapore, worked for the United Nations peacekeeping operation in Cambodia, and taught Southeast Asian politics at Columbia University.

In the scholarly domain, Stromseth is co-author of “China’s Governance Puzzle: Enabling Transparency and Participation in a Single-Party State” (Cambridge University Press, 2017) and editor of “Rivalry and Response: Assessing Great Power Dynamics in Southeast Asia” (Brookings Institution Press, 2021). “Rivalry and Response” assesses U.S.-China competition by examining the strategic landscape, domestic governance trends, and economic challenges in Southeast Asia. A key finding is that U.S. policy has become too concentrated on defense and security, to the detriment of diplomacy and development, allowing China to fill the soft power vacuum and capture the narrative through its signature Belt and Road Initiative.

In addition, Stromseth’s publications include a multi-volume series on U.S.-Vietnam relations as well as articles and reports on policymaking in Vietnam, geopolitical trends in Southeast Asia, Chinese foreign policy, and foreign aid cooperation in Asia. At Brookings, Stromseth focuses his research on U.S. Asia policy in the context of escalating U.S.-China rivalry. In this connection, he directed a major trilateral project with partners in Southeast Asia and Australia, focusing on the implications of China’s rise for regional stability and cooperation. He is also examining the possibilities for expanded U.S. partnerships with emerging partners like Vietnam and Indonesia.

Stromseth has extensive experience implementing governance reform projects in Asia. In Vietnam, he created programs to encourage private sector growth through improved economic governance, culminating in the influential Provincial Competitiveness Index, which ranks all Vietnamese provinces based on key governance indicators. In China, he designed and managed a multi-year project to strengthen public participation in policymaking, working with legislative authorities and China’s top law schools to train officials and support policy innovations. He also led a program to promote government transparency by supporting Open Government Information (OGI) initiatives at the provincial level.

He holds a doctorate in political science from Columbia University, where his studies focused on comparative politics and international relations in the Asia-Pacific region. His academic awards include a Columbia President’s Fellowship as well as research fellowships from the Social Science Research Council and the Institute for the Study of World Politics.


  • Council on Foreign Relations, member
  • East Asian Policy: An International Quarterly, member, editorial board
  • Areas of Expertise

    • Good governance
    • International development cooperation
    • U.S.-China relations
    • Vietnam
  • Current Positions

    • Professor of the Practic, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University
  • Past Positions

    • Member of Policy Planning Staff, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of State (2014-2017)
    • Country Representative to China, The Asia Foundation, Beijing (2006-2014)
    • Country Representative to Vietnam, The Asia Foundation, Hanoi (2000-2005)
  • Education

    • Ph.D., Columbia University, 1998
    • M.Phil., Columbia University, 1992
    • M.I.A., Columbia University, 1991
    • B.A., St. Olaf College, 1985
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